Ronnie Van Zant, Bob Burns, Gary Rossington, and Allen Collins, who would later become bandmates, first met as young boys while playing on opposing baseball teams. Their friendship led them to form a band, My Backyard, in the mid-60s, with the addition of Larry Junstrom.
The group went through several name changes, including The Noble Five and The One Percent, before settling on Lynyrd Skynyrd, a reference to a character in Allan Sherman’s novelty song ‘Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh,’ as well as a P.E. teacher named Leonard Skinner.
The band started performing live and began working on their first album, which would become a legendary work in rock music.
James Hetfield shared his opinions on the song ‘Free Bird.’
During an interview, James Hetfield shared his Top Ten Greatest Songs Of All Time, and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” took the top spot. Hetfield discussed what the song meant to him, which was centered around the idea of being on the road and never staying in one place for too long. This resonated with Hetfield’s own experiences of traveling during the first two decades of his life. He related to being a free bird, someone who was unattached and constantly moving forward.
“Nothing tops this workingman’s ballad. ‘Free Bird’ fit my life for the first 20 years on the road — not getting too attached to stuff, living life for the moment, and moving on.”
The lyrics of “Free Bird” make it an ideal song to reflect on the early years of James Hetfield’s musical journey, where he constantly traveled from one concert to another. The idea of being a “free bird” is often associated with rock stars, particularly in the early stages of their careers. The lyrics “If I leave here tomorrow/Would you still remember me?/For I must be traveling on now /’Cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see” perfectly capture the essence of a musician’s life on the road.